Illustration showing two cars, one with many "micro stops" holding it back, and the other with only a couple stops- allowing the second car to reach the destination much quicker.

Are Micro Stops Quietly Gashing Your Production Efficiency?

Are Micro Stops Quietly Gashing Your Production Efficiency?

Micro stop: When a machine or piece of equipment quickly stops and resumes production, typically as a result of a temporary issue that is resolved in just a few seconds or minutes.

These small, quick micro stops may seem harmless and just a part of the process. While it’s near impossible to completely eliminate all micro stops on the plant floor, they can actually make a huge impact on your overall production efficiency and your bottom line.

Although downtime is a popular topic, capturing downtime occurrences, reasons, and developing a deeper understanding of what is really happening on the plant floor has proven to be a struggle for the majority of manufacturers.

If manufacturers are unwilling or not properly equipped to capture downtime reason codes from complete machine failures, you can only imagine how many micro stoppages are being completely ignored on a daily basis.

These micro stops are eating into your production efficiency, yet it seems to be the downtime that no one pays any attention to.

The Downtime that Nobody Talks About

As I mentioned, everyone talks about downtime, but not this kind, not micro stops.

It’s fair to say that you want to tackle the biggest problem first. You want to spend your time, energy, and resources solving the most important, most valuable problems. With that being said, how do you really know what your biggest problem or biggest inefficiency is? You might be surprised if you saw some numbers rather than relying on a gut feeling or reasoning that x is just obviously more important compared to other issues.

For many manufacturers, especially discrete manufacturers- micro stoppages end up accounting for more downtime than “big” downtime. The high volume of product changeovers and movement around the plant floor makes the numbers add up quickly.

The problem is that manufacturers A) are not tracking processes, and B) constantly overlook and completely ignore micro stops. If a machine fails and is down for a couple of days, you would of course realize it, and ensure that the issue is resolved and the machine is up and running again as soon as possible. On the other hand, when a machine stops production for 30 seconds here and a couple of minutes there due to a small temporary issue, you very likely just fix it and keep going. The odds are, you never think about the issue again and just keep moving.

These micro stops occur many, many times throughout the day. I’m not saying that you should spend 20 minutes analyzing a 30-second problem all day long. However, I am saying that gathering information and making the proper adjustments to increase throughput and machine utilization in the long term is unquestionably worth it.

What Counts as a Micro Stop?

Micro stops can account for a large portion of overall downtime and have a major impact on your OEE. Micro Stops can really be anything that causes downtime for a short period of time. Here are some common reasons for Micro Stops:

  • Operator error
  • Small machine configuration errors
  • Machine process parameters
  • Inefficient process loading/unloading parts

Why Manufacturers Struggle to Reduce Micro Stops

It’s actually a really simple answer. Nobody notices micro stops, nobody pays them any attention, so nobody tracks them. How do you expect to improve a process that you know nothing about and that you ignore? Simple answer again – you don’t. However, that is the bigger problem.

The fact that the majority of manufacturers don’t pay attention to micro stops and don’t see a real reason to, shows how much of a non-issue they view it to be. In reality, micro stops have the potential to be your leading cause of downtime or the biggest area for improvement. Manufacturers should strive to have a continuous improvement mindset, which does not mean to only give attention when something is broken. You should be proactively looking for inefficiencies, quickly making adjustments, and keep moving.

What You Can Do

One simple way to cut back on micro stops is by analyzing your top-performing employees. Gather basic data detailing when their machines were producing and not producing, gather time-stamped basic information, track their habits, how they approach situations, their whole process from start to finish.

Then, you analyze that data and make it part of the training. This process works particularly well for machine setups and dealing with product changeovers- times when micro stops occur very often.

Here is how tracking this type of process could work + making a data-driven decision to improve the process:

  1. Pick out a top-performing employee
  2. Track their entire manufacturing process from machine setup to finished product
  3. Gather basic time-stamped data detailing when the machine was producing and not producing
  4. Analyze the data to determine why this employee has fewer downtime occurrences, and what makes their process superior to others
  5. Make this process part of the training for other employees

Simple, but extremely effective. Use your best employees’ experience and good habits to your advantage. We have another article dedicated to detailing this process further and points out how you can create value by taking one of your top employees and “cloning” your other employees to match their tendencies. Click here to check it out.

Track Processes

Manufacturers need to start tracking these processes. Track changeovers, how machines are loaded, which operators have more micro stops than others- and analyze the data to figure out why. Maybe scrap and machine jamming is causing a high volume of micro stops that go unnoticed. Maybe operator changeover times are inefficient. You won’t really know until you start gathering data.

Get Visibility

Machines are only becoming more complex, and harder to understand thoroughly. It’s important to get visibility into your machines, help operators better understand what is actually happening on the inside of them. This will help them to learn what they can do better, why certain problems occur, why the machines are jamming, why so many micro stoppages are continually pausing production, and what specifically is causing downtime.

This data is just sitting trapped inside machines on the plant floor. All you need to do is equip yourself with the right tools to get that data out.

Once you have the data, you can analyze it to find inefficiencies, make quick adjustments, and improve your manufacturing process.

 

Don’t Forget About the Little Things

We’ve all heard somebody say that the little things add up. Whether you’re talking about spending a few dollars here and there or something else, it adds up. We all know it’s true and have seen little things add up to a large sum in one way or another. So, don’t forget about the little things, they make a huge impact. Don’t ignore and dismiss micro stops as just a part of the process or a small hiccup to take care of and forget about.

Processes that are tracked get improved. On the other hand, if you have no information, you have no substance to base a decision on or make any real improvement. Start tracking, start simple, prove the value to yourself and go from there.